Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Phone Company and Me

I still have a landline. I know that's old fashioned, but I prefer to talk on the landline than the cell phone. There seems to be some key to cell phone talking that I haven't mastered yet; there's always a time lag and I find myself talking over people. I don't do that on the "old" phone line. On the old phone line, calls don't drop, the volume doesn't suddenly disappear, and the sound is clear.

Not so much on a cell phone. While we've come a long way, baby, in terms of cell phone technology, it still doesn't match the good old landline for clarity and reliability.

That is, until the phone companies stopped caring about the landlines because so many people no longer have them. As an outlier who still has a landline, I'm now a minority. The phone book the company puts out has dropped from about 150 pages to 20. It's pathetic.

It's like the newspaper business. Change change change. All thanks to technology and this wonderful thing called the Internet, which is allowing me to write this piece and post it for all the world to see. Yippee!

My area is rural. My Internet is still DSL. Yes, DSL. That's just a step up from the old dial-up. It's 20+ year old technology. I can do some things with it, but not a lot. Just yesterday I was streaming a meeting of the local county supervisors, and a friend was also watching. She was using a hot spot and she was 4 minutes ahead of me, at least, in time because of the slow downloads that I have. She was sending me texts about stuff that in my world hadn't happened yet because I had not yet reached that point in the meeting.

The phone company, the same one I'm complaining about at the moment, has been promising me fiber "in the very near future" for literal years. They're receiving millions of federal dollars to hook up us rural folks, but we're still not hooked up. And it's still literal years away, from the looks of it.

But I digress. I wanted to write about my experience with my landline. For some time now, I'd noticed an oddity in the calls in that occasionally I would hang up, and then pick up the phone to find that the call had not disconnected on my end. Sometimes I could hear someone still talking, or muttering to him or herself, until they hung up. Once or twice I simply listened in out of curiosity to see what was being said. Fortunately, it was nothing unexpected.

I didn't realize it was a problem, though, until yesterday. I was reaching for the phone to make a call when it rang. I picked it up without thinking to find a spam caller on the other end. I hung up. I picked the phone up to make my call, and the spam caller continued rattling on with his message. I hung up. I did this multiple times, for several minutes, until the spam caller (which seemed to be a recording) ran out of words and hung up itself.

I should be able to disconnect a call immediately. I know long ago, when there was such a thing as party lines and such, you could not always disconnect immediately. Once this became a near life-threatening issue when my grandmother was talking to a friend. My brother, whom she was babysitting for whatever reason, alerted her to the fact that a strange man was on the front stoop taking off his shoes and then rattling the door. My grandmother told her friend to hang up so she could call the police, but her friend didn't understand and kept right on talking. Because the call didn't disconnect on my grandmother's end, every time she picked up the phone, she heard her friend talking and couldn't call out. Finally, she got her friend to hang up so she could call the police.

So, this non-disconnect thing could be life-threatening. What if I were having a heart attack while some spammer was spewing his or her or its nonsense, and I couldn't hang up and call 9-1-1? Or, like my grandmother, had a prowler? There are reasons why we have the FCC, you know.

Once we realized we had an issue, we checked our phones by calling with our cells, and sure enough, the landline wouldn't disconnect a call. This morning we checked at my mother-in-law's house across the street, and she had the same issue. So, we called the phone company.

I call the phone company frequently because the Internet goes down often. I have them on speed dial on my cell. This morning I called, and a woman finally answered the phone after a rather long wait. First, I was miffed because she asked me for a pin number. What is she talking about, a pin number? I took a guess. She said it was probably the last 4 digits of the account holder's social security number unless it's been changed. I do not find that acceptable at all. I was immediately irritated by this new change that was utilizing a social security number. Talk about compromising.

Then she wanted to know if I'd unplug the phone from its base. I explained to her that this was happening to in other homes around me, so it wasn't my phone. She insisted I should unplug the phone from its base. I explained to her that I was talking to her from that phone and if I unplugged it, we would no longer be talking.

I asked to speak to a manager, and my husband took the phone away from me. She finally wrote up a "trouble ticket" and gave my husband a number to write down.

About an hour ago, the phone company called. Some young fellow, who sounded like he was 12, started explaining to me how phones work and information runs through the lines and what was usually going on when there was this problem. I sat listening to him and all I could think the entire time was that I've probably been using telephones for about 3 times as long as this dude has been potty trained.

Finally, he asked me if this happened on every call. "I don't know," I said. "I don't pick up the phone again after I hang it up every time I answer it. I tell you what, you called me, so let me hang up and we'll see if you're still there when I pick it back up."

Which is exactly what I did, and he was still there, and he said he would send somebody out. But, as they always must warn, if the trouble is inside my house there would be a charge.

I'm pretty sure since my mother-in-law has the same issue, this problem is not inside of my house. It's down on a pole somewhere a half mile away.

These companies act like their customers are stupid and they all seem to have superiority complexes. I don't know why people don't understand that regulations are in place to protect us, the consumers, and I would gladly pay a bit more to have clean air and to not have to deal with 12-year-olds in suits because my phone doesn't work. Companies only want my money, that is all. They don't want to give me good service, they don't want to provide me with anything, they just want my money. My job is to hold them accountable and make sure I get what I'm paying for. It's also a function of the government, one that certain people don't like for whatever reason. But I like regulations. I want my things to work properly and to be safe for me to use. I don't want to have to spend all of my time wondering if my phone or my Internet or my whatever is going to work properly or explode in my hand because of lack of regulations.

And right now, I want my phone fixed.


  1. I liked the internet when it seemed to be about helping me do things I wanted to do better. Now it is all about me adapting to the internet so that I do things the way it (and the people who own it) dictate. The medium is the message and the message is: we can't be bothered to deal with people as individuals. That's time consuming and costly. It's more profitable to plug them into the internet and make them dance to its tune.

  2. I still have a landline for the reasons you listed: better sound quality, more reliable connections. I hear it wherever I am at home, while often my cell is in my purse or coat pocket and I miss those calls. Also, I prefer it for bank-by-phone and other calls when I'll be keying in sensitive account numbers. My personal problem with it is from Chase bank. After I hang up on bank-by-phone, Chase calls me back and it's an uninterrupted continuation of our call (" ... 3 to search by check number, 4 to search by check amount ..."). I have no idea why this happens. I'm just used to it.

  3. Frustrating! I am with you on the use of cell phones. I am constantly talking over other people. I love the convenience of a cell phone but miss the days of the old landlines too.


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